models // Carly Wilson and Zoe Vo
styling // Lydia Chan
photography // Claire Ward-Beveridge
Three-dimensional printing may seem more akin to sci-fi conventions than fashion ateliers—Makerbot did call their newest machine “The Replicator” after all. But for industrial design and architecture students, 3D printers and computer-aided design (CAD) modeling make up a big part of their curriculum. A lot like a regular paper printer, 3D printers read information from a computer, then translate it into something you can touch. These just have one more axis and some super hot melted plastic. But this time, architects Biying and Matt have applied their keen sense of geometry and form to something a little smaller: they design and print jewelry pieces from their Toronto apartment under the moniker Hot Pop Factory. They talk to WORN about their process and the dichotomy of small scale digital production in the handmade world.
With backgrounds in architecture, your skills lend themselves both to 3D modelling and thus printing. Why did you choose to make jewelry objects?
Jewelry and architecture operate at vastly different scales, and yet, fundamentally, they are both about establishing relationships with the human body. For us, this was an amazing opportunity to apply our skill at creating space and form at an extremely intimate scale. We found the kind of connection that a person has with jewelry is much more personal and immediate. Contrasting our experience in architecture, designing at this individualized scale can help shape personal identity and style in a way that has been very rewarding for us.
What inspires the forms you use?
For our initial foray into 3D printing, we drew inspiration from the fabrication process itself. We wanted to establish a deep understanding of the technology, both in terms of the opportunities it affords in the creation of novel forms and also in the terms of the wider social and cultural implications. Our first collection, Strarigraphia, which, as the name implies, is about this stratification of many layers, seeks to uncover the inherent beauty of the additive manufacturing process and at the same time evoke the accretion of knowledge and sharing of resources that are prevalent in the wider maker community.
What does your design process look like?
While working on architectural projects, one is always limited to iterating their work through forms of representation: sketches, models, drawings. For our jewelry collection, this process was radically changed through the use of the 3D printer. We were able to touch, feel, and wear every iteration of our design from the very start of the project. This resulted in a design process that was essentially a litany of ever evolving prototypes. Each generation accumulated several small changes which were ultimately reflected in the final product, this allowed us to create highly personal and evocative objects which was the ultimate goal of our work.
You sell your work at craft shows and on Etsy. Do you see a distinction between “handmade” crafts and batch 3D printed work?
Digital design and fabrication technologies are merely tools in what is ultimately an artisanal process. There is an art form that is developed in how they are finessed and manipulated to fulfill a design vision. Like in any other craft, they can be used more or less successfully depending on the talent and experience of the artisan. In this respect, there is a striking resemblance between the way we design and fabricate our work and more traditional handicrafts. Ultimately, the biggest difference might be that, due to the digital nature of our work, there is the opportunity for it to be shared and modified freely among many artisans allowing it to become a platform for other creative works instead of a singular object.
Where do you see digital fabrication technologies fitting into the world of fashion manufacturing at large?
It’s difficult to pin down where this is all going so early on. I think the most prominent and exciting feature of this technology is how it radically lowers the barriers to entry in the creation of physical objects. This means that many fresh innovations will begin to arise from unexpected places. We will no longer be boxed into the role of “consumer” but will all have the opportunity to be the author of the objects that define us. This whole process will be compounded by the fact that all of this knowledge and work can be shared freely over the internet due to its digital form.
Any plans for large scale Iris Van Herpen statement pieces in the future?
Yes. Iris Van Herpen is a huge inspiration for us in that she uses rapid prototyping of unconventional materials to dress the body. Like Van Herpen, we are very interested in the intersection between traditional fabrication techniques and rapid prototyping technologies. Currently, we are experimenting with creating textiles with our 3D printer—a spin on chain mail structures. The idea is to design printable modules with its individual links already interlaced. This process allows us to create extremely intricate designs computationally, and produce those designs with more precision and less time.
What jewelry inspires you?
We love Kate Cusack’s zipper necklaces; she is a great example of an artist who has really mastered her medium and material. We also covet the bold use of elemental materials and clean lines in Mimi Jung’s Brook and Lyn Jewelry. In the 3D printed jewelry world, we love Michiel Cornelissen‘s coin necklace, which is a great example of the kind of innovation and unique vision that can rise from jewelry created with a digital fabrication approach.
video // Daniel Reis
photography // Laura Tuttle
There is whole world of jewelry that exists beyond Tiffany’s and Cartier, and Carol Woolton’s Drawing Jewels for Fashion is the place to begin for anyone who wants to learn about it. Don’t be fooled: this is not a how-to. Although its title and cover indicate that it might be, the book profiles 36 modern jewelry designers and the ideas and stories behind their work. (This was a relief for me, as it meant I wouldn’t be reminded of how poor my drawing skills are.) Along with photographs of the actual jewelry, Woolton features pages from artists’ sketchbooks and images from their mood boards, helping the reader understand all of the processes that precede the pieces. Drawing Jewels for Fashion is for readers who are strangers to the who’s-who of contemporary jewelry design, and who want to know more about the “how” behind the art.
The book is organized around six different themes: Civilizations, the Natural World, Art and Architecture, Culture and Literature, the Material World, and History and Symbolism. The sections explain themselves—in the Natural World, designers found inspiration in everything from animals’ movements to different kinds of fauna. In the 36 designers profiled, no two are alike, and the book includes names I recognized, like Diane von Furstenberg, and designers I didn’t know, like Victoire de Castellane, who I learned designs jewelry for Dior.
It was hard to pick favourites, though the work of London designer Hannah Martin stood out to me. Most of the artists featured were creating jewelry for women, but Martin’s pieces were different. She explains that he dreams up various masculine characters, places them in made-up worlds, and then combines this masculinity with feminine elements to create jewelry that is both imaginative and androgynous.
What I took away from reading this book was that everything has a story, jewelry included. My understanding of clothing has always included designers’ inspirations—I obsess over fashion collections and their back-stories. But I had never extended those thoughts into the world of jewelry. I had always given my own stories and values to the pieces that I owned, but hadn’t considered the other histories that might exist behind this ring or that necklace. Not anymore. Long gone are the days where I simply muttered, “That’s a nice watch. It’s shiny. Cool, cool.”
further reading // Drawing Jewels for Fashion by Carol Woolton, Prestel Publishing, 2011
book report // Sofia Luu
photography // Brianne Burnell
Montreal is home to lots of hidden fashion gems; the plentiful thrift shops of Mile End, Fashion Pop, and our latest crush, jewelry designer Elaine Ho. Her design sense is both broad and bold, ranging from architectural geometric designs that look like they appeared out of an M.C. Escher drawing to morbid-cute miniature skulls. Plus, she is funny, candid, and loves cats almost as much as our editor-in-chief, Serah-Marie McMahon.
What was it like taking metal design in art school?
My first piece was in my high school art class; we got to make a silver ring with a bezel-set stone. I still can’t believe that our art teacher trusted a bunch of teenagers with gas torches and acid and dangerous stuff like that. Considering some of the kids in my class would sneak up to the loft above the art classroom to smoke pot during class, it’s kind of a miracle that there were no injuries or fires. After that I was hooked (to making jewelry, not smoking pot). I took metals classes at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) while I was a teenager and about six years later I started taking jewelry courses again at the Visual Arts Centre in Montreal. The ability to make stuff out of metal, especially precious metal, is the best. Making something that could maybe last forever? Crazy.
How was going to school in the Prairies different from taking fashion design at Parsons in New York City?
I grew up in the suburbs of Calgary, Alberta across the street from a national park and had deer in my front yard. I could see the Rocky Mountains from my house; it was fun. But I never pictured myself staying in Calgary, and a move to NYC was perfect.
Parsons was amazing; they have campuses all over Manhattan. You go to class right in the Garment District and can buy fabric and supplies at the same places that “real designers” do. I got the kind of jobs and internships that would never have been available to me if I had stayed in Calgary. Oh, and not to name drop or anything, but one of my classmates was Prabal Gurung, and there was also this other guy who used to be a District Attorney who prosecuted murderers and rapists, and he decided to make the career change into fashion design. Awesome guy. I loved living in NYC and would have stayed there much longer had my student/work visa not expired. I was politely refused at the border when I returned from a vacation to Montreal in 2003. That’s how I ended up in Montreal.
Is every piece of jewelry handmade, or do you contract out the production elsewhere?
I am able to create almost every piece of jewelry myself, including all the wax and silver models. However, I am unable to do casting from my home studio and have been working with an amazing local foundry (SR2 Technologies) for the past seven years, who excel at what they do.
After the casting I do probably about 90% of the finishing myself, but sometimes I get a huge order and do need to have help with production. I’m a bit of a perfectionist control freak when it comes to my work. People are spending their hard earned money on my jewelry and that’s kind of a big deal to me.
A lot of your pieces have a dark edge, like cat skulls, dead rabbits, and two-headed snakes. How does the macabre influence the jewelry you design?
My favourite outfit in Grade 3 was a long black jumper over black leggings with a black long sleeve hoodie and black slouchy socks and black high tops—I guess it’s just the way I’ve always been. I’ve always been drawn to really cute and adorable things (Hello Kitty, kittens, baby animals, miniature versions of things) as well as dead stuff and violence (guns, knives, watching Full Metal Jacket when I was seven) so I suppose I’m just bringing together my favourite things.
What are some of your more geometric designs based on?
I used to doodle cubes, cylinders and other geometric shapes in my notebooks, and always looked forward to going to the gem and mineral show every year as a kid. I still do, not because they’re kind of a freak show, but because I absolutely love crystals and minerals and fossils and rocks (just not in the weird spiritual energy way). I just think they’re beautiful. Most of my geometric designs are based on existing and imaginary shapes, and inspired by natural crystal structures.
Our editor-in-chief, Serah-Marie, is obsessed with your pet cats you post about on Instagram—tell us more about them.
I am obsessed with cats! Especially Persian cats. They’re possibly the most domesticated animal you can get your hands on. They are so easy to take care of, extremely friendly, and not much more work than a houseplant—save for the excessive shedding.
Pepito Mimumo(Black Persian): I picked him up nine years ago at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and he was already a senior when I got him. By now he could be 200 years old. He is old and crotchety, dirty and cranky, gets cat food stuck in his nose, and the end of his tail is always wet because he sleeps curled up like a fox and drools on his tail. He never cleans himself, so I have to give him baths. He was recently diagnosed with kidney failure, but he’s doing okay, all things considered.
Poof (White Flame Point Himalayan): I got Poof from a pet store in 2003. She lived in a cage for about six months and I used to visit her every time I bought cat food from the shop. I’m sure she’s probably from a puppy mill or something awful like that. I don’t buy pet food from shops that sell kittens and puppies anymore. She looked gross because she had a bad cold and was sort of wall-eyed. No one wanted her and they kept marking her price down because it’s harder to sell older kittens. Poof turned out to be a great cat.
Fräulein Ponyo von Mitten (Black long-hair alley cat): She was a very small abandoned kitten living under my front porch and I took her in a few years ago. She has extra front toes so it looks like she’s wearing mittens.
Sofia (Grey Persian): I just picked up a fourth cat this month. Her owner was really sick and not able to take care of her anymore. She is a five year old, tiny cat with giant eyeballs, and looks like a cartoon character. She has settled in quite well, and pretty much runs the place.
WORN Fashion Journal is obsessed with cats: our associate web editor Alyssa owns a cat sweater, our publishing intern Jill owns a kitty iPhone case and our publisher Haley owns a ‘Cat Flag’ parody t-shirt. How does owning cats affect your design process?
I love and want both those cat shirts, and the iPhone case. I have a few cat items in my collection, but they’re subtle—well, I think they are. There is a fine line between liking cats and looking like a crazy cat lady. When I make cat designs, I make sure it’s something I would wear myself before putting it into production. But perhaps that’s not saying much because I have a rather large tattoo of a cat face hidden in floral lace on my arm.
Do you have any plans to continue producing your clothing line?
Yes, I would like to eventually. I took year off of designing clothing so I could focus more on jewelry. Jewelry keeps me really busy, so I think all I can handle at this point is a super mini collection or season. By super mini, I’m thinking one top, one bag, and some mittens.
What sort of consideration do you give to environmental sustainability in your jewelry design and business model?
I never throw anything out. That’s also known as hoarding. But does it count as sustainable? I keep all my silver scraps, even the tiniest ones, as well as any failed projects, which get melted down and re-used. I try to use the “greenest” and least poisonous options for my pickling, cleaning, and oxidizing solutions. My jewelry teacher once told me about this lady who had the most beautiful patinas and finishes on her jewelry made from crazy chemicals and she’s dead now because of it.
I try to get all my supplies locally. I recycle everything I can, and I use biodegradable poly bags for the accounts that insist on having their items individually poly-bagged. I use recycled cardboard mailing envelopes, and paper jewelry boxes that can be easily reused and recycled. (I hate bubble envelopes; they are the devil’s invention.) Overall, there is very little waste from making jewelry.
Are their any jewelry designers you admire, or design colleagues you think our readers should check out?
I’ve really been into silversmith Hans Hansen and his son Karl Gustav, who made stunning minimalist jewelry in the early 20th Century. I’m also obsessed with Victorian mourning jewelry, especially the stuff with human hair, which is so intricate and pretty and creepy.
Any tips for young people interested in starting their own fashion businesses from the ground up?
Just go for it. Intern or work for businesses similar to the one you want to create, because it’s the best way to learn all the behind-the-scenes stuff they don’t teach you in school. Don’t quit your day job right away either. See if your work takes first, then quit, and make sure to steal a lot of stationery on your way out. You can never have enough pens or printer paper.
photography // Allison Staton